Troy University’s new Janice Hawkins Cultural Arts Park is poised to become one of the region’s most important centers for the study and appreciation of global art.
Hundreds gathered at the park in November for the official dedication ceremony. The event included University, local and state officials, in addition to performances from students and faculty.
The park consists of an amphitheater, walking trails, a lagoon and the International Arts Center, which houses two art galleries and an interpretive center known as Warriors Unearthed.
In addition, 200 replica terracotta warriors designed by the artist Huo Bao Zhu are displayed throughout the park in exhibits representing the historic excavations in China.
Located inside the International Arts Center, the Fred “NALL” Hollis Gallery features NALL’s works from the 1960s to today, and the Huo Bao Zhu Gallery houses a revolving gallery of art and visiting exhibits.
Outside the center is the Daniel Foundation of Alabama, which houses the sculpture “Violata Pax Dove” by NALL.
“I am overcome with gratitude,” said Janice Hawkins, the First Lady of the University, during the ceremony. “This was truly a university project. My prayer is this place enriches and blesses you the way it has already enriched and blessed me.”
Chancellor Jack Hawkins Jr. said the transformation of what had been Stewart Dining Hall and an undeveloped area of the campus into the park has been amazing to watch.
Instead of tearing down the aging building, it was remodeled into an art center that will serve generations of students, faculty and visitors, he said.
“A kudzu-covered ravine has been transformed into a beautiful park,” Hawkins said. “We believe that preserving the past is progress.”
Mrs. Hawkins said the inspiration for the park came from a simple conversation with Chancellor Hawkins over dinner one night.
“I had lunch in (the International Arts Center) when it was a dining hall with my husband, and he made the statement, ‘This would make a great building for the arts.’ And that’s all it took, because I have, since we came here to TROY, wanted to upgrade our facilities for the arts,” she said. “I don’t believe in tearing buildings down if there’s any way to save them. I am so thankful. It’s far beyond my expectations.”
The International Arts Center will also house new classroom lab space for the University’s Department of Art and Design.
Students say they are thrilled about the new facility.
“It’s incredible for the art department,” said Kellen Crookham, a senior graphic design major. “It’s like we’re creeping out of the shadows and being able to show what we’re capable of and all the great art our faculty and students are able to produce. It’s incredible.”
Crookham and fellow art student Jamall Holmes were among the students who worked on projects involving the park.
“It was a big honor for me to be a part of this,” said Jamall Holmes, a senior fine arts major. “Coming from the school back when it had the old dining hall to where we are now, it’s impressive to see the final product. As far as art students, it’s a good place to see other artwork. The inspiration that you get to see and constantly be around in that space, I think it’s going to be very beneficial to the students.”
State Sen. Gerald Dial, president pro-tem of the TROY Board of Trustees, said he marveled at the beauty of the park.
“In 12 months, the (terracotta warriors) went from a hunk of clay to real warriors,” Dial said. “People will come from all over
the country to see them. Today, we can declare that Troy University has the most beautiful campuses in the state of Alabama.”
The audience was treated to a performance of “America the Beautiful” by the Troy University Symphony Band; a solo performance of “Amazing Grace” by faculty member Dr. Robert Gibson; performances of “A Bit of Earth from the Secret Garden” and “The Road Not Taken” by the College of Communication and Fine Arts music, theater and dance ensembles; and a performance of “O Happy Day” by the Gospel Choir, directed by Dr. James Brown and featuring soloist Sheila Jackson.
After the dedication ceremony, another dedication – that of the Daniel Foundation of Alabama Plaza at the International Arts Center – also took place, featuring the Troy University Jazz Quartet.
At the plaza dedication, Daniel Foundation Chairman Charles Daniel explained the importance of the cultural arts park to the state and the region.
“We view this as an investment in the future,” Daniel said.